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When Should Blue Ridge Classes Begin?

By Ted Brewster

Blue Ridge classes began this year on August 26th, a Monday. It's too late to change that, but some parents and teachers would like a different opening schedule for next year. They say that the children – especially the "littles," the elementary pupils – were exhausted by the "physical, mental and emotional" impact of the first week of 5 full days following summer recess. At the meeting on September 9th, one parent of a 2nd grader asked the school board to consider a "3, 4, 5" schedule for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

The "3, 4, 5" plan would have the children return on Wednesday before Labor Day for an opening 3-day week. Following Labor Day, a 4-day week would then help ease students into the new year so that they would be prepared for the 5-day weeks to follow. Could the idea be put on the agenda for the next meeting?

Well, no it couldn't, said Board President Chris Lewis. He said that the school calendar usually comes up in February or March. So the parent vowed to turn up next January and thereafter to urge the Board to reconsider.

Mr. Lewis introduced the new student representative to the Board Gia Fiore, President of the Senior Class, who, with her tag-team partner, Class Vice President Kayleen Conklin, will keep the Board apprised of student activities and concerns this year.

Mr. Lewis also introduced Shane Pagnotti, a Member Services Manager for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (the lobbying organization for public schools), who presented certificates recognizing long service to Blue Ridge to Christina Cosmello and Harold Empett. Ms. Cosmello has served on the Board for 12 years; Mr. Empett has served a full 20 years.

Mr. Lewis announced that the Board had met in executive session to consider the Superintendent's evaluation. They also discussed "labor relations." Blue Ridge teachers are working under a contract that expired at the end of last June. Many of them turned out at the public meeting wearing their BREA (Blue Ridge Education Association, the teachers' union) shirts to demonstrate solidarity, although they did not participate in the meeting.

The formal agenda for the meeting was relatively brief, covering several routine personnel matters, including hiring Heather Soden as a part-time nurse. The Board also approved agreements with First Hospital Wyoming Valley and the Children's Service Center. The former provides residential mental health services as required; the latter is an "alternative education" provider for disruptive students. Superintendent Matthew Button said that the services are required under state regulations, but are little used by Blue Ridge; the need can be unpredictable, and one student is enrolled in each of them so far this year.

The Board offered changes to its policy manual for public review, including:

  • Clarifying terms of membership on the Board, and requiring Board member training;
  • Formally establishing the entry age for students at 6 years;
  • Clarifying rules for student attendance, truancy, excused absences, and withdrawal from school.

In his role as Safety Coordinator, Matthew Nebzydoski said that school safety and security, and the "school climate," would be reviewed in October. He said that summer upgrades to the surveillance cameras in the schools and to the radios used by administrators will help to improve security in the district's buildings.

Business Manager Brian Dolan declared this year in transportation the easiest he's seen at Blue Ridge. He attributed the improvement to the training provided to the drivers and staff.

And Superintendent Button asked the Board to consider an out-of-budget expense to improve the soccer fields.

The next public meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board will be a workshop scheduled for Monday, September 30, 2019 beginning at 7:00pm in the cafeteria in the Elementary School. Classes may or may not begin on a Monday, but the Board always meets on Mondays.

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Susquehanna Provides Park Update

By Lillian Senko

Susquehanna Council President Roy Williams stated all contracts are signed for Ira Reynolds Riverfront Park to move forward with the project at Council's meeting held on September 11th. He said the project has taken a long time and has been an exhausting process for the people involved.

On September 30th the electrical work is scheduled to start, followed by the walking trails and fencing. Projected time is approximately four to six weeks for completion. President Williams reported he is still in negotiation with the railroad. Anticipated time for the grand opening will be spring, 2020. Council will be holding a public meeting on October 11th at 6:00pm to provide updated information to the public and give people the opportunity to ask questions.

Boy Scout Troop 81 leader Mike Matis brought in Jeremiah Hadden, Matt Matis, Aiden Page and Mason Opalka to view Council's meeting. Mr. Matis said a requirement toward a Communication Merit Badge is to attend a public meeting. President Williams thanked the young men for attending and said Council was happy to have them there.

President Williams remarked on the tragedy of the fire that destroyed the Susquehanna Transcript building and damaged the one next to it. He said it was monumental the work firemen did to save the other structures, a wonderful job and kudos to them fighting a very difficult fire.

To be assured of proper disposal of material and asbestos from the building remains since its so close to Drinker Creek, President Williams stated the borough will be involved with the process. Councilman Dana Rockwell asked how long Erie Boulevard would be closed and President William replied the state police have not finished the inspection or the investigation so it'll be a while yet.

During the DPW reporting Kevin McKee said when the inspector was at the location for the issue with the red light he conveyed the request for a blinking light. A letter was received with approval for stop signs that were not requested. A third stop sign wouldn't be able to be installed, so stop signs are not an option.

The price of relocating the control box is thirty thousand dollars and PennDOT has a grant, Green Light – Go. Filling out the grant paperwork and sending it in would bring the funds into the borough in 2020. President Williams said they would brace the control box and apply for the grant to relocate the box.

Chief John Creamer reported officers responded to fifty-two incidents in the month of August. He also stated there have been a lot of scams reported lately. Mayor Nancy Hurley said your phone will show an ID but it's phony and never give out personal information when you receive these calls. She also said if you are having an emergency always call 911 and not the local police phone, every second counts and the police may not be in the office. The 911call center can contact the officers regardless of their location.

Mayor Hurley thanked the boy scouts for coming to the meeting, it's nice to see young people interested in local government. She said she is happy the Transcript is up and running and they are able to continue their business.

Code Enforcement Officer Butch Kelsey reported forty-two Notices of Violations were issued in August, along with eighteen Citations. Most of the violations on the report consisted of uncut grass and weeds, and accumulation of trash.

We are close to the season for checking smoke detectors and cleaning chimney and woods stoves, said President Williams. Doing these basic yearly checks and cleaning will possibly save you and your home from fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Junior Council Person Program provides youth in the community with an opportunity to get engaged in borough government and develop leadership skills and allows borough officials to serve as mentors. Activities Director Valerie Senese brought to Council a young lady that was interested in the program, Kim Schwartz. Ms. Schwartz attended the meeting to view how Council was conducting the meeting and it was decided she would be sworn in at the October 9th meeting.

Ms. Senese provided the Activities Report to Council and stated the every Friday events were going well and she has many future events in the planning stage such as an art festival for next summer to be held at the new park. Events are currently posted on Susquehanna PA Happenings Facebook Page and anyone can access the page to find out what's happening in Susquehanna.

President Williams stated the borough and the Susquehanna Community Development Association (SCDA) is working together to get the community out to get to know each other. Council is very proud of Ms. Senese, she does a marvelous job.

Councilwoman Barbara Lawson announced the 4th Annual Fall Vendor Fair would be held on September 21st, from 10:00am to 4:00pm on the grounds around the borough building.

Susquehanna Community School District Homecoming Parade will be 6:00pm on September 27th.

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